By Femi Aribisala
God is the God of the poor: he is not the God of the rich.
If man establishes a university and says the first one hundred pupils in the exam would be admitted, then know that in God’s university it is the last one hundred that would be admitted. Or if in man’s Olympic Games, the gold medal goes to the person who comes first; then be sure that in God’s Olympics, the gold medal would be given to the person who comes last. Jesus says in the kingdom of God: “the last will be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:16).
God violates deliberately every human yardstick and criterion. Thus, Solomon observes that: “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favour to men of skill.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11). The kingdom of God is the antithesis of the kingdoms of men. Therefore, the Lord kills before he makes alive; he brings down to the grave before he brings up. The Lord makes poor before he makes rich; he brings low before he lifts up. (1 Samuel 2:6-7).
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount turns every blessing on its head. It is the poor (not the rich) who are enriched by the inheritance of a kingdom far more glorious than all the thrones of the earth. It is the meek (not the assertive and aggressive) that end up inheriting the earth. It is those who hunger and thirst after righteousness (not those who acquire wealth) who are fulfilled. God works out salvation through contradictions, bringing about a reversal of fortunes. He promises that, at the end of the age: “All the trees of the field shall know that I, the LORD, have brought down the high tree and exalted the low tree, dried up the green tree and made the dry tree flourish.” (Ezekiel 17:24).
Blessings of poverty
I sat in the High Court in Port Harcourt and watched the proceedings with mild amusement. A middle-aged man, very simply dressed, took the stand. He was probably a poor farmer. Nevertheless, he was suing the multinational oil company, Shell Petroleum. He claimed Shell dug a trench in his village and failed to fill it back. His young son fell into it and died. He was suing Shell for compensation. Instead of just paying him, Shell hired a highfalutin lawyer to defend its case. I asked myself: “How can this man possibly win against almighty Shell? If necessary, Shell could buy the judge and buy the case.”
Then the Lord spoke to me. “Femi,” he said, “Shell has a lot of resources. But I am on the side of the weak.”
God is the God of the poor: he is not the God of the rich. He is the God of the servant: he is not the God of the master. He is the God of the forsaken wife: he is not the God of the bossy husband. He is the God of the sick: he is not the God of the healthy. He is the God of the disadvantaged: he is not the God of the privileged. He is always on the side of the least as opposed to the greatest. Jesus says: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40).
The angel greeted Gideon by informing him the Lord is on his side. Gideon does not believe. “How can the Lord be on my side when all these bad things are happening to me?” But the Lord is on Gideon’s side precisely because bad things are happening to him. If Gideon had won the lottery, he would have assumed the Lord was on his side. But God is not the God of the fortunate: he is the God of the unfortunate. God is always on the side of those with reproaches in this life. Accordingly, Jesus says: “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25).
Strength in weakness
In the battle against the Midianites, God secured victory for Gideon’s army by reducing the soldiers from thirty-two thousand to only three hundred. Thereby, he unveiled the heavenly principle that it is not by strength that one prevails. (1 Samuel 2:9). “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.’” (Zechariah 4:6).
On Mount Carmel, when Elijah wanted God to answer him by fire, he told his lieutenants to pour water on his sacrifice until it was completely drenched. Elijah understood that the more impossible the odds, the greater the power of God to overcome them. Therefore, in order to secure the full commitment of God to his cause, Elijah made sure he was particularly disadvantaged by loading the dice against himself.
The Israelites were slaves in Egypt, and yet their God (not the god of the Egyptians) was the Lord. The man is only your driver but remember God is on his side. All she does is cook for you and clean after you, but be careful; God is on her side. He is a weather-beaten Lazarus begging at your gate, but beware; God is on his side.
Therefore, a believer should never support the strong. Don’t give to the rich. (Proverbs 22:16). Don’t pray for the well-heeled. Throw parties for beggars and vagrants. (Luke 14:12-14). And if you are broke, don’t ask a rich man to pray for you or with you. You might just be trying to get assistance from him by witchcraft. Look for a man who is dirt poor and ask him to join faith with you. God’s strength is made perfect in weakness.
Dying to self
How do we gain victory over poverty? We don’t do so by coming into riches. We do so by making poverty inconsequential. If a man comes into great wealth, he does not overcome poverty. He simply becomes rich. And if he becomes rich, he can just as easily become poor again. But when a man overcomes poverty, he can never be poor again. When he overcomes poverty, he does not have to be rich. It means poverty no longer has an adverse effect on him. He can be as poor as a church-rat, and yet be as happy as a king. Jesus says: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
The Lord told me a story. A man travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho was attacked by armed robbers. They stripped him of his belongings and beat him black and blue. They beat him until he slumped and died. Then the Lord asked me a question. He said, “Femi, what happened after the man died?” I did not know the answer so I asked the Holy Spirit. He said: “They stopped beating him.”
Then the Lord said to me: “Femi, if they are still beating you, it is because you are not dead yet. Once you are dead, the beating will stop.”